She was raising $2,600 so 100 girls could see 'Hidden Figures.' She just cleared $13,000.

'I figured this movie would be a good starting point to show girls that even when life gets hard, you have to keep going.'

On Dec. 15, 2016, 13-year-old space enthusiast Taylor Richardson had the experience of a lifetime.

She saw a special screening of "Hidden Figures" at the White House alongside the cast of the movie, first lady Michelle Obama, and several NASA astronauts.

From left, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Kevin Costner. Photo by NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.


Not only was the biopic about Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan — three women who were the unsung heroes behind the first successful NASA missions into space — inspiring to Richardson on many levels, what hit home most for her was what Michelle Obama said about everything they were up against.

"These women couldn’t even drink from the same water fountain or use the same bathroom as many of their colleagues … and folks didn’t always take these women seriously because they were black and also because they were women," Obama explained that night.

The first lady also talked about how few women — and even fewer women of color — there are working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields today.

The experience made Richardson want to do whatever she could to show girls that their STEM skills are not only welcome, but finally being celebrated.

"I've been to four space centers, and not once were these women and their contributions that impacted our space program mentioned," writes Richardson in an email.

Photo via Fox Movies.

She decided to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to offer 100 girls the chance to see "Hidden Figures" for free in the theater.

"I figured this movie would be a good starting point to show girls that even when life gets hard, you have to keep going," Richardson explains.

She included in her budget goal enough money for each girl to get a snack and a copy of the book on which the movie was based.

Literacy is very important to Richardson, who regularly collects gently used STEM books and donates them to schools and children in need. "I've donated over 3,000 books and read to over 250 kids in Jacksonville about STEM and space," Richardson says.

In just 18 days, she exceeded her goal of $2,600 five times over. That extra  money will go toward more screenings for girls who could use some STEM  inspiration right now.

Richardson with NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle. Photo via Taylor Richardson.

Despite women's growing in STEM work and space exploration these days, there is still a major disparity of women of color in these fields. No doubt the lack of representation in the history books and, until recently, on screen has something to do with that.

While Richardson's idea to provide free movie screenings may seem small, her commitment to changing the game for women of color in STEM is not.

She's far from alone in seeing what the impact a movie like "Hidden Figures" can have on the next generation of girls.

There's a reason "Hidden Figures" has remained #1 at the box office for two weeks straight, beating out blockbusters like "Rogue One." Representation matters — for girls dreaming of being astronauts, women of color who have trouble finding role models, and anyone else who feels left out of history.

Hopefully, thanks to movies like "Hidden Figures," more and more girls will realize there is a place for them in STEM fields.

Richardson, whose goal is to be the first person to walk on Mars, offers some sound advice for girls on the fundraising page: "It's important that girls not only look at the stars but take the steps to reach for them."

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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